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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
Ronnie Scott's, London - Sunday 20th February 2005

the BlockheadsIan Dury (1942 - 2000)


by Nick Morgan

Kate said, “You know I think this might be a bit sad”, having last seen the Blockheads with their late and much lamented front man at the Bush shortly before he died. But how could it be? In a packed Ronnie Scott’s, on a tiny and equally packed stage, the Blockheads led a devoted audience through a Sunday celebratory service, and in an act of virtual transubstantiation the presence of a benign Ian Dury was conjured up amongst us to enjoy the playing of the band without whom he would have remained somewhere up the Kilburn High Road, doing a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.

The Blockheads, minus the deceased Charley Charles and the departed Davey Payne, appear at first sight to be something of a late middle aged, badly dressed, shambles, maybe a not so posh pub band from Burnham on Crouch. But under the direction of musical auteur Chaz Jankel, in reality the man who was at least fifty per cent of Dury’s talent (although as his social-worker demeanour suggested, without any of his fierce charisma), they play like a band possessed, as if the end of the world’s longest pier at Southend of Sea had somehow managed to reach out to New Orleans.  
the Blockheads
The Blockheads (photo Ian Narbeth)

With Jankel carefully orchestrating every move from his piano stool (or front stage on guitar) the band deliver some virtuoso performances. Norman Roy Watt, who looks and moves like Charles Dickens’ Quilp from The Old Curiosity Shop, is simply sensational on bass, and turns in a fair vocal as he works through Billericay Dickie (if you can’t catch Norman with the Blockheads then he’s always around playing with Wilko Johnson). Drummer Dylan Howe sounds as though his surname should be Neville Brothers. Mickey Gallagher plays his Hammond B3 faultlessly, with barely a smile. Gilad Atzmon (boy – what a weird website, don’t you think Serge?) plays funkadelic sax, and the still-alive Johnny Turnbull played some great guitar and also sang gamely on some of the hits (opening number, ‘Rhythm Stick’) and on songs from the Blockheads’ 2003 CD Where’s the Party. Oh yes, and Derek “the draw” Hussey, looking like a well spaced out Viv Stanshall added percussion, a little bit of Cockney rap, and his own quite decent song, ‘Spread it’.
The set was divided nicely between a very respectfully chosen selection of classics (excluding Ian’s most personal songs) and Where’s the Party; but the rhythm, the outrageous humour of some of Dury’s lyrics (“a seasoned up hyena couldn’t have been obscener”) and the palpable enjoyment of the band were infectious.

  And if the Blockhead’s newer offerings sound a bit stale on vinyl (or whatever it is that CDs are made of) then they’ve lost nothing on stage, apart from one of the greatest characters of late 70’s English rock and roll. But nonetheless Serge these boys were very alive and very Blockhead. C’est si bon, c’est fantastique. Je t’adore, ich liebe dich.
Editor’s Note: The Blockheads logo is the Trade Mark of Blockheads Limited. Beware of fakes and imitations. - Nick Morgan

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